The end of the school year is always a strange and exciting time. Like my students, I look forward to a break, but I always have mixed emotions about parting ways after spending the better part of a year with them. On the last day of school, I like to keep things light, but I also think it is important to have them reflect on their classroom experience. Below you’ll find a few of the activities I plan on using this year.
This is an idea I’m borrowing from Dr. Richard Curwin. Here’s how it works:
Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to think of four questions they want to ask you about the past year. There’s no need to place any restrictions on the questions; if you feel a question is inappropriate, simply pass. Students may ask you questions like, “Why did you give us so much homework?” or “Why couldn’t we keep our smartphones in class?”
Once you’ve answered each group’s questions, it’s your turn to ask them questions. You may, for example, ask them about their favorite classroom activity, their least favorite activity, and so on.
Crack open those time capsules
This activity requires some planning. At the beginning of the year, I have students fill out a questionnaire in which they answer a variety of questions about their hobbies, their current favorite song, their favorite school experience, what they hope to learn this year, and so on. Once they complete the form, I have students roll it up and slide it into a paper towel tube that they’ve decorated and written their names on.
On the last day of school, I hand out the time capsules. It’s both funny and insightful to see how much students have changed over the course of a year.
Have students evaluate themselves
Every classroom is different, but a decent portion of my students’ grades has to do with the level of engagement and preparedness they’ve shown during our seminar discussions. I have my own system for tracking each student’s progress, but I also like to have students reflect on their own performance.
Below is the handout I give to students:
As you know, a significant portion of your grade not only has to do with the quality of the work you have submitted over the course of the semester, but the level of preparedness you demonstrated in our weekly seminars. As we close out the semester, I would like for you to reflect on your own performance and level of commitment in our course by proposing the letter grade you believe you earned in this area. Please keep in mind that you are not proposing your final grade—I simply wish to know the grade you believe you earned for class preparation and participation. Although I will not accept your proposition without some consideration, I will carefully consider and weigh it before calculating your grade. Before you begin though, I want to remind you of what class preparation and participation refer to:
- Reading all assigned texts attentively and being prepared to discuss them in class
- Actively contributing/vocalizing your thoughts during class discussions and group activities
- Coming to all class meetings—and coming on time
- Turning in all of your assignments in (and on time)
- Not using your cell phone in class
- Bringing your essays to all of our in-class peer reviews
- Fully and willingly participating (that means not just sitting back and allowing your peers to do all of the work) in group activities
Proposed grade and explanation:
This is another activity recommended by Dr. Curwin. Here’s how it works:
Using small groups, ask the students to role-play you teaching a class. Be prepared for the role-play to be funny, yet highly accurate. Then you get to turn the tables and role-play any of the students' behavior in class. Try for humor, not sarcasm.
Sample situations from students:
- Teacher giving a lecture.
- Teacher trying to quiet the class.
Sample situations from teacher:
- Students asking silly questions.
- Student explaining a complicated concept.
Set summer goals
I’ve shared this activity before, but I think it’s worthwhile to add it to the list.
Start by having students read an excerpt from Michael Jordan’s book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying. After students finish reading, ask them to pair up with another student and write a one-sentence summary of the information.
Next, students get together with another pair of students to compare their summaries and work together to develop the best one-sentence thesis/summary they possibly can. Once groups finish, I like to have each group write their sentence on the white board. Then, as a class, we review the strengths and weaknesses of each summary and work together as a class to create the most accurate and concise one-sentence summary that we can.
Following this, each student completes a goal-setting worksheet, or writes out a one-page reflection in which they set summer goals and reflect on how they will achieve them. After completing the worksheet, give students the opportunity to share their goals with the class.